IN HIS traditional New Year's Day Mass, Pope Benedict XVI posed the challenge for the Catholic faithful to "respect others, even when they are different from us". This presupposes that recognizing and respecting the human rights of other people remains to be the fundamental value in upholding freedoms all over the world.

Tolerance is the ability to accept the differences in others. This capacity emerges when an individual feels connected and secure, able to control anxiety and fear when exposed to new people and situation, and see the strengths, needs and interests of others. Respect is the ability to celebrate the value in ourselves and others, and largely requires emotional and social maturity.

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These are the same values that are forgotten with the increasing commercialization and the obsession for individual success and the state centric framework of security rather than the broader security of individuals and communities. All over the world, people often struggle with displacement from so-called development projects, which threaten their culture and sustainability of the environment.

In our homeland, indigenous communities remain vulnerable with projects that threaten to dislocate and uproot their culture and sense of identity. Commercial projects takes over the basic interest of people to survive, be able to have decent shelter, pursue opportunities, much less to make informed choices.

In his homily, the Pope also appealed for investment in education “not only to transmit technical and scientific concepts, but to inculcate ecological responsibility based on respect for humanity, human rights and fundamental duties.”

He also deplored all the false justifications for war and violence. “In some places of the world, children were sunken by hunger and illness, disfigured by pain and hopelessness. “ The Pope also advocated human ecology saying that there is a close link between respect for mankind and respect for nature.

This call is relevant especially in Mindanao where the 745,000 internally displaced persons caught in the war since August 2008 continue to live in utter hopelessness, unable to live their life humanely and where children’s access to education and even play are disrupted by war.

It may be high time for everyone to heed the call and to genuinely work together to ensure that human rights are uphold and every opportunity is provided for all children to have the best start in life.

Tolerance and respect could only emerge in children who feel safe. There are two aspects of this sense of safety. The first is the belief that one is valued and accepted. When children feel this unqualified acceptance, it will be much easier for them to accept others. The second element depends on how the new experiences affect their sense of security.

In many ways, the people in our lives act as a mirror in the process of building our sense of self. The process of building self esteem and the related capacity for respect is complicated by the tendency to pay more attention to negative events which can become magnified in ways that positive experiences cannot easily overcome.

An intolerant child will often grow as a bully. Children who struggle with tolerance help create an atmosphere of exclusion and intimidation for those people and groups they fear. No peace building workshop could effectively remove the barriers that we have systematically placed our young people into.

Day in and out, children are forced to grow and live in a hostile environment with a little sense of social security. Today, we open another opportunity to work for and with the young people in managing and building peace in their communities. This effort cannot be removed from ensuring that spaces for their own participation are upheld. Email comments to